It is common knowledge that this year, 2016, marks Botswana’s fiftieth anniversary of Independence. Many of our people made sacrifices and contributions for us to have reached such a milestone. It is because of these men and women that we enjoy the peace and stability parallel to none, at least within our continent.
Unfortunately, government’s narrative, or to put it bluntly, propaganda is that only those who supported the status quo or who were pro-government contributed to the milestone we will be celebrating in about six months from now. This cannot be true.
In this series, we remember those of our heroes and heroines who, though unwanted by government, made immense contributions to the legacy we are celebrating this year. A case is made that government’s attempt to re-write history by omitting these heroes and heroines’ contributions to our success as a nation cannot succeed.
In discussing these men and women’s contributions we shall not pretend that they were without fault. Their faults will be exposed with the same vigor as their successes will. Yet, emphasis will be made that their faults notwithstanding they deserve a place in our country’s history.
As it will be seen as this series progresses these men and women are not of one political ideology or political party. They reflect the plurality of our political diversity. Nor are they of one tribe or gender. They are not of one religion. They are Batswana who share one thing in common, country commitment and honor.
It is instructive that we start with Dr. Kenneth Koma. He founded the Botswana National Front (BNF) in 1965 after the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)'s landslide victory in the self-government elections and served it as its President from 1977 to 2001.
Dr. Koma was elected BNF president in 1977, taking over from Chief Bathoeng Gaseitsiwe who voluntarily relinquished his leadership position. Under Dr. Koma’s leadership, the BNF was the main Opposition party until around 2009. In the 1994 general elections it won 37.1% of the vote, winning thirteen out of fourty parliamentary seats.
One of the greatest contributions that Dr. Koma made to this country was to contribute to the establishment and growth of a strong Opposition which, by challenging the ruling BDP’s policies and suggesting alternative policies, forced the BDP to work harder in improving Batswana’s lives.
Guided by his Marxist theoretical orientation, Dr. Koma’s contribution to the growth of a strong Opposition was, in part, through the development and writing of alternative political theories and programmes such as the ones espoused in his popular Pamphlet No.1 publication. These theories contributed to our success in two ways.
Firstly, the BDP, albeit covertly, adopted some of the theories and translated them into such programmes as the Accelerated Rainfed Arable Programme (ARAP), Arable Lands Development Programme (ALDEP), Services to Livestock Owners in Communal Areas (SLOCA) and the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP). These programmes, albeit with limitations, contributed in the development of our people.
Secondly, many of our country’s political leaders, professionals and Academics were inspired by Dr. Koma’s teachings and study groups and have used such inspiration to contribute to our people’s development in a variety of ways.
While Academics contribute to the development of contemporary leaders by imparting socio-economic and political theories to students though such disciplines as Political Science, political leaders live such theories and use political parties to fight for the emancipation of our people from poverty, exploitation in the workplace and any form of subjugation.
Himself highly educated, Dr. Koma, an assiduous reader, has led to the development of an Intelligentsia which has contributed to our country’s development. Many who read for such disciplines as Law, Political Science and Economics did so because they were following Dr. Koma’s footsteps.
According to the BNF’s 50th Anniversary Committee, Dr. Koma “…used his extensive contacts in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union where he had studied for almost seven years, he organized scholarships for scores of Batswana to pursue their studies there. K.K. Motshidisi, O.K. Menyatso, Mareledi Giddie, Conference Lekoma, Henderson Tlhowe, Harry Tlale and others benefitted from these scholarships”.
The BNF’s 50th Anniversary Committee further states that “in the early 1970s he had also established a secondary school in Mahalapye, where he taught for some time. A number of students who could not get admitted to Government secondary schools had the opportunity of pursuing their secondary education at that school. He wrote a pamphlet on problems of Education in Africa entitled, “Education in Black Africa.”.
According to the BNF’s 50th Anniversary Committee, “Dr. Koma had an LLB from Nottingham University, Certificate in French, an M.A. in History, Philosophy and Political Economy from Charles University, Prague Czechoslovakia, and Phd in Political Science from the Academy of Sciences in Moscow, the Soviet Union”. Who cannot be motivated by a man with such academic distinction?
Dr. Koma’s publication, Pamphlet No. 1, described by the BNF’s 50th Anniversary Committee as “a superlative exposition of BNF’s politics and elaboration of its strategy and tactics” contributed greatly to the education of not only party activists, but many who today hold various leadership positions, even in government.
Since being elected to Parliament in 1984, Dr. Koma contributed immensely to the quality of debates in Parliament. This not only made the Executive to account to the voters through Parliament, but also enhanced the voter’s interest in politics, resulting in high voter turn-out during elections.
Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Koma’s contribution to our country was saving us from civil wars and armed conflict when he, unlike such Opposition leaders of his time with leftist leanings as Dr. Jonas Savimbi of Angola, advocated for a politics of dialogue and never encouraged his followers to resort to arms.
Like every human being, Dr. Koma’s life was not without blemish. During his tenure as BNF leader, Dr. Koma, a Marxist opposed to the bourgeois policies of the BDP, was revered. He became a cult figure whose followers became disciples. It is this cultism which made him ‘infallible’. Regrettably, it is this ‘infallibility’ which made the BNF’s foundation defective.
The BNF’s splinter parties formed in 1989 and 1994 were not a result of appreciable doctrinal differences, but a result of dissatisfaction on Dr. Koma’s leadership style. Yet, owing to the blind following by his disciples, Dr. Koma was seldom challenged.
Unfortunately, when the 1998 split, which led to the formation of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), happened it was too late. The split followed an aborted BNF congress, dissolution of the Central Committee by Dr. Koma, and a bitter court battle.
Naturally, in the 1999 general elections, the BNF’s vote share declined to 26% when it won only six parliamentary seats. In the 2004 general elections it further declined to 26.1% of the popular vote, winning a paltry twelve of the fifty seven parliamentary seats.
In the 2009 general elections, it won only six parliamentary seats which fell to five following the defection of its former Vice President, Olebile Gaborone, to the BDP in July 2010.The final nail on the coffin was when, in 2003, Dr. Koma, did the unthinkable, abandoning the BNF and forming a new party, the New Democratic Front (NDF).
The BNF’s 50th Anniversary Committee put it succinctly when it said: “like any individual, comrade Koma was not infallible, had faults and imperfections and was on occasion prone to commit mistakes. But weighed on the scale of History these pale into insignificance especially when juxtaposed with his colossal talent and other formidable leadership attributes”.
Dr. Koma’s shortcomings notwithstanding, he is no doubt a hero who deserves mention as we celebrate our country’s 50th anniversary of independence. I cannot put it better than the BNF’s 50th Anniversary Committee when it said “…Comrade Koma undoubtedly belongs to a pantheon of the finest and greatest men and women that this country has ever produced.”
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.